Five Thoughts: Offseason Activity

From coaching changes to player updates, the Lakers' offseason so far has been very eventful. Here's a taste of some of the ongoing and developing storylines:

- The aftermath of the Mike Brown press conference:

After the Mike Brown press conference of Tuesday, it seemed as though the public and media perceptions of the hiring had done a near 180 degree turn. Instead of anger, frustration, and disbelief, there was hope, optimism, and Laker-patriotism. A lot of articles that day had the same message, "Hey, this might work out!". Magic Johnson tweeted about the Laker family needed to show the coach support. The Buss family and the Lakers front office did a great job of "Jim Buss damage control", releasing numerous notes and interviews centered around the fact that not only does Jerry Buss support Jim Buss, but that Jim Buss really isn't the final decision maker. Coach Brown's effortless "coach speak", his overall enthusiasm, and the mere fact that he had a face to face meeting with Kobe Bryant, has quelled many fears of Laker Nation.

I still have my doubts though.

As with Phil Jackson, Mike Brown will need a tremendous support staff, and I'm eagerly awaiting the assistant coaching hires. I'm also interested to see how Brown and his staff will transform this Lakers team into a defensive presence, something that has always been lacking.

In taking a step back, I can acknowledge the fact that I couldn't legitimately think of another coach that the Lakers could've hired that I would have been 100% satisfied with. Although I felt the Lakers should have gone with a young upstart, a myriad of questions would have immediately descended upon any young coach taking over from Phil Jackson. No hire would've been perfect.

So it's the wait-and-see approach with Mike Brown as the Lakers head coach. As always with the Lakers, the proof is in the banners.

- Shaquille O'Neal retires:

There is no doubt that Shaq has made me feel nearly every emotion as a Lakers fan. Ecstatic when he first signed with the Lakers. Disappointed when we seemed to lose to the Jazz every playoffs during his early Laker days. Joy during some of his more humorous press conferences. Elation when he caught the alley-oop from Kobe against the Trailblazers. Pride when he dominated the NBA Finals for 3 straight seasons. Frustration when he came to training camp out of shape nearly every year. Anger when he uttered the words, "I got hurt on company time, so I'll get better on company time." when asked why he waited until the season started to get surgery. Disbelief during his feud with Kobe that eventually led to him being traded, mainly because it seemed at the time that Kobe was getting all of the blame because Shaq was so well liked by the media. Sorrow when he won the championship with the Heat. Pity when he went from team to team on one-year contracts looking for another ring (Cleveland and Boston).

And now, after watching his retirement press conference and reflecting on his career, I feel a mixture of nostalgia and regret. He was clearly the centerpiece of three NBA championships with the Lakers, but he was never my favorite Laker. I also remember going to the Laker parades and loving how Shaq would take them over and make them so great. But he never really felt like a true Laker, more just like a big-man for hire. He meant so much to the Lakers during that time, but there was always a sense that it could've been so much more.

- A look at the free agent landscape:

Just taking a quick look at the NBA free agent pool this summer, there are definitely some potential roster upgrades that the Lakers could make. Without regard to trades or salary cap issues, the Lakers should had at least 2 roster spots open for next season. Here's a quick short list of guys who I think will be targets this offseason:

-Aaron Brooks, PG - Quick point guard with great offensive skill-set. Something the Lakers have almost never had.

- Jamal Crawford, SG - Pure scorer who can fill it up when Kobe is on the bench.

- Aaron Afflalo, SG - If defense is a priority, Afflalo is a great fit.

- JJ Barea, PG - If you can't beat them, then get them to join you. (Or something like that)

- Carl Landry, SF/PF - If only so he can stop playing so well against us.

- Sasha Vujacic, SG - I kid, I kid...

- Pau Gasol playing for Spain during the offseason:

A lot of people are up in arms after Pau Gasol announced that he will be playing for his native Spain at this summers' European Championships. Gasol was the poster boy for how tired and drained the Lakers looked during the series against the Mavericks, both mentally and physically. It looked as though Gasol really needed a rest, and the threat of an unnecessary injury while playing overseas leads us to question the decision.

In my opinion, how much rest does a guy really need? He can take off nearly 2 full months, and still play with Spain and be ready to go for the NBA regular season. Although the risk of injuring himself is always there, I think it will be good for Pau to play some basketball outside of the Lakers, get his head together while finding his game again. I think playing this summer will only help get put him on a better path for next season.

- Shannon Brown playing in local summer league:

Shannon Brown has been playing in the legendary Drew Summer League in South Los Angeles, on the same team as NBA player DeMar DeRozan and rapper The Game. A lot of NBA players have played in this league over the years, and it has grown a bit of a following. The games are open to the public, so head over to Washington Park (8908 S. Maie Ave. LA, CA 90002) if you're feeling adventurous. Here's some highlights from Shannon's first game.


-Mark Slattery Senior Writer

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